Archives for posts with tag: encouragement

burger fortune cookie
The Fortune Cookie
by Shelly Blankman

Caught in a storm as thick and dark
as the medical web that trapped me,
I took shelter at a Chinese buffet,

where no one could mistake my tears
for raindrops. I could sink my sorrow
in a nice, warm bowl of soup, and no one

would notice – except for Joy. Her elbow
bumped mine at the buffet bar. Oh, I’m sorry,
she said, startling me, flipping the mirror

I’d focused on myself. I hadn’t noticed her
until then. I hadn’t noticed anyone. That’s okay,
I mumbled. She was striking – a Black woman,

tall and lean, glittering in gold, from her giant
hoop earrings and jingling bangle bracelets to her
sleek ankle-length dress and stilettos. Her long,

gold fingernails pointed to her favorite dishes,
and as we filled our plates, she asked questions
about my life, as if trying to pry open a shell

I’d slammed shut a long time ago. As we parted
for our tables, she shook my hand. My name is Joy.
It was nice to meet you. She hugged me tightly,

whispered, It’s going to be okay, her faint fragrance
lingering as she disappeared into the crowd of diners
and I returned to my table – invisible once again.

Rain had begun to wane. Still imbued with the warmth
of Joy’s hug, I grabbed my coat. My fortune cookie,
safely wrapped in its tiny package, dropped to the floor.

I’d almost stepped on it, then almost tossed it. Instead
I opened it gingerly and in tiny print, the message read,
The hard times will begin to fade. Joy will take their place.

I scanned each room to find the woman in gold. Nothing.
Visited each table, asked servers carrying heavy trays,
approached hostesses and diners. No one had seen her.

I wonder even now if I had. I left that night feeling
defeated. Why hadn’t I told her how much it meant
to feel her hug, to see her smile, to feel her comfort?

Two years later, the fortune cookie message is still
displayed on my fridge. Dark times remain,
but Joy stays with me. I hope she knows that.

IMAGE: Fortune Cookies and Rice by Pamela Burger. Available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem practically wrote itself. My creative process was simply drawing on that one experience with Joy and to convey how it takes one act of love to break through despair.  How one stranger can affect another stranger’s life so profoundly without ever knowing it. How do you put such an intense experience in writing? The task was daunting. But the challenge was worth it.  Whether or not I was successful didn’t matter.  I just wanted somehow to pay tribute to Joy and to remember that on the darkest days, angels of light are present.

Blankman photo (2)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her husband have filled their empty nest with three rescue cats and a foster dog. Their sons, Richard and Joshua, live in New York and Texas respectively. Following careers in journalism, public relations, and copy editing, Shelly now spends time writing poetry, scrapbooking, and making cards. Her poetry has appeared in the Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Super Highway, and Halfway Down the Stairs, among other publications. Richard and Joshua surprised her by publishing her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead.



by Henry Miller

With Anais I felt safe, secure. She delighted in keeping things running smoothly so I could write. She was really a true guardian angel, supportive and enthusiastic about my writing at a time when I needed it most. She was generous too. Kept me going with little gifts — pocket money, cigarettes, food, and so on. She sang my praises to the world long before I’d become regarded as a writer. In fact, it was Anais who paid for the first printing of Tropic of Cancer. For these reasons I feel utterly grateful to her. It’s rare to find a friend, a confidante, a colleague, a helpmate, and a lover, all in the same person.

Excerpt: Reflections by Henry Miller (Capra Press, 1981), edited by Twinka Thiebaud

Photo: Anais Nin, photographed by Carl Van Vechten (1940). Image courtesy of Marquette University Archives.

Note: Barbara Kraft has written a fascinating, compelling memoir about the last years of Nin’s life. Anais Nin: The Last Days is available at here.


You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” FRANZ KAFKA